by Andrew Kaye, Sweet Leaf Madison Capital
2023 is New York’s year for cannabis – at least that is what we are being told. It has nearly been two years since the state voted in legalized recreational use and sale, but the state has been very slow in getting processing facilities and dispensaries up and running, with only three of the 66 licensed establishments in operation as of the end of February. It is no secret that New York has the potential to be one of the largest cannabis markets in the world. This year alone, New York City is expecting over 50 million visitors – many of them looking to buy legal weed.
Everyone can see the value that New York will bring to the industry, but why does it feel like they are dragging their feet to bring something to the table?
It appears that the state may have bit off more than it can chew.
A lack of understanding of the complexities of securing commercial cannabis real estate combined with the fact that raising necessary capital has been slow-moving, has made it so that cultivators now have too much supply with no means of distribution to meet the demand.
Good intentions, slow follow-through
The guiding social equity program behind New York’s retail licensing system is a giant leap forward within the cannabis industry to bring up those directly affected by the failed war on drugs. The Cannabis Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses are aimed at prioritizing these underserved communities and awarding licenses to those who have been convicted of marijuana-related crimes, or have a direct family member that has been charged, with the opportunity to open retail locations. Nonprofits that work directly with these communities have a chance at obtaining licenses as well.
One of the most enticing things about these licenses is that the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) has been tasked with finding storefronts for entrepreneurs who have been granted licenses and even build them out for them. To do so, the state has contracted 10 firms to design and construct each dispensary. But again, the state has been very slow in getting dispensaries up and running. It seems that DASNY has discovered the reality that finding landlords willing to lease to a cannabis business may be more daunting than expected.
This only adds to the sense of urgency that has lingered in the air for the last two years. Businesses are ready to get up and running just to play catch up to the underground market that is thriving across New York City’s boroughs. Currently, New York has estimated that there are roughly 1,400 unlicensed retailers operating in the city. Unregulated sales mean that weed has the potential of going to underage kids, being tainted and it is all ultimately going untaxed. New Yorkers and the state are hurting due to the delayed rollout, but there is still time to change things around.
Since spaces are limited for license holders waiting on DASNY to figure out the real estate landscape, the state has started to give licensees the option to go out on their own to secure a location for the sake of being one of the first to the legal market.
The problem is that this good news comes with a caveat. If a licensee decides to break out on their own, they will be forgoing their share of the $200 million public-private fund that DASNY has budgeted to help with operating costs. This fund is essentially a state loan that each retailer will have to pay back, including interest. But the problem is that DASNY has not yet raised the necessary funds to dole out to retailers – the only amount that the public is aware of is the $50 million that the state provided.
So, the million dollar questions are, do these entrepreneurs take a chance to be first to the scene? Or do they trust that the money and real estate issues will work themselves out?
It is hard to say. But what we do know is that there are new cultivating and processing licenses being secured this year as well, and a huge backlog of weed in storage, so there will be no lack of product once the doors to the public open up – right now, it is just a matter of time.
So maybe NYC should get out of its own way, put a bit more “market” in the cannabis market, and let 1,000 blossoms bloom!
Andrew Kaye has been involved in all aspects of the financial services industry, as a fund portfolio investment manager, investment banker, family office investor and attorney. He has worked with start-ups on their first raise through global enterprises undertaking billion-dollar stock offerings, and has significant investment experience in the cannabis industry. Currently, Andrew works as Sweet Leaf Madison Capital’s Chief Commercial Officer. Lending his expertise toward the creation of middle market financing solutions for real estate and equipment financing needs in the cannabis space.”
“Sweet Leaf Madison Capital provides non-dilutive, asset-based lending solutions to the underserved middle market of the cannabis industry by originating real estate loans, equipment financing, securitized term loans, and more for entrepreneurs and businesses. The company is based in Denver, Colorado and has offices in New York City and West Palm Beach, Florida. To learn more or complete a loan application, visit Sweet Leaf Madison Capital online, or continue the conversation on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.”
Andrew J. Kaye is Chief Commercial Officer of Sweet Leaf Madison Capital. He can be reached at email@example.com.